Relocalizing Standards in English Language Arts: Consequences on Functions of Literacy

Kerry Anne Enright, Joanna Wong

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The authors examine the functions of literacy in three accountability-driven English language arts classrooms. To explore the interplay between transmission-oriented, standards-based instruction and local interpretations and uses of literacy, they employed Pennycook’s (2010) notion of relocalization. The authors examine how accountability mandates, relocalized as curricular standards, and relocalized again in textbook materials and teachers’ instructional moves, shape the functions of literacy in these classrooms, with consequences for students’ negotiation of meaning of the assigned texts. They found that language and literacy practices across ability tracks, curricular tracks, and teachers emphasized “separating” functions of literacy: separating, reducing, and narrowing (a) which texts or aspects of text counted as official or important, (b) which ways of making meaning with texts counted as legitimate, and (c) which meanings counted as legitimate interpretations. The contribution of this work is to expose the mechanisms by which these separating functions of literacy occur in diverse classrooms, and to examine how a common approach to standards-based instruction, encouraged in the current accountability paradigm, limits students’ possibilities for meaning-making by encouraging “separating” functions of literacy to the near exclusion of student-centered involvement in meaning-making. The authors conclude by suggesting alternative frames and approaches for attending to standards.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalCritical Inquiry in Language Studies
StatePublished - 2017


  • English Language and Literature
  • Language and Literacy Education

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